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Medical Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine

Discover the transformative benefits of Medical Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine and unlock the power of holistic healing for your body and mind.

USMLE Guide: Medical Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine


The purpose of this guide is to provide a comprehensive overview of Medical Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) for the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination). OMM is a distinct form of manual medicine practiced by osteopathic physicians (DOs) that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and their impact on overall health. This guide aims to cover the key concepts and principles of OMM that may be tested in the USMLE.

I. Osteopathic Principles and Philosophy

  1. Holistic Approach: Osteopathic medicine emphasizes the interrelationship between the body's structure and function, recognizing the body as a unit of mind, body, and spirit.

  2. Body's Self-Healing Mechanism: Osteopathic physicians believe that the body has an inherent ability to heal itself, and it is the physician's role to facilitate this process.

  3. Structure and Function Interdependence: OMM focuses on the relationship between the body's structure (anatomy) and its function (physiology), recognizing that changes in structure can affect function and vice versa.

  4. Palpatory Diagnosis: Osteopathic physicians utilize their highly developed sense of touch (palpation) to identify subtle changes in tissue texture, motion, and temperature, which can aid in the diagnosis of somatic dysfunction.

II. Somatic Dysfunction

  1. Definition: Somatic dysfunction refers to impaired or altered function of related components of the somatic (body framework) system, including bones, joints, muscles, fascia, and related vascular, lymphatic, and neural elements.

  2. Types of Somatic Dysfunction:

    • Articular Dysfunction: Involves abnormal motion or function of joints.
    • Myofascial Dysfunction: Refers to abnormal muscle function or tension, often associated with trigger points or tender points.
    • Visceral Dysfunction: Occurs when somatic dysfunction affects the related organs, leading to referred pain or other symptoms.
  3. Diagnosis: Somatic dysfunction is diagnosed through a combination of patient history, physical examination, and skilled palpation to identify the specific areas of dysfunction.

III. Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT)

  1. Definition: OMT is a hands-on therapeutic approach used by osteopathic physicians to diagnose and treat somatic dysfunction. It encompasses a diverse range of techniques aimed at restoring normal function and promoting self-healing.

  2. OMT Techniques:

    • Soft Tissue Techniques: Includes myofascial release, strain-counterstrain, muscle energy, and lymphatic techniques to address muscular and fascial dysfunction.
    • Articulatory Techniques: Involves joint mobilization or manipulation to restore normal joint motion and function.
    • High-Velocity Low-Amplitude (HVLA) Thrust Techniques: Utilized for specific joint dysfunctions, characterized by a rapid, short amplitude thrust.
    • Cranial Osteopathy: Focused on the evaluation and treatment of the cranial bones and their relationship to the meninges and nervous system.
  3. Indications for OMT: OMT may be used as an adjunctive treatment in various conditions, including musculoskeletal pain, sports injuries, headaches, asthma, sinusitis, and more.

  4. Contraindications: OMT should be avoided or modified in certain situations, such as acute fractures, severe infections, malignancies, and unstable cardiovascular conditions.

IV. Integration into Medical Practice

  1. OMM in Primary Care: Osteopathic physicians often incorporate OMM into their primary care practice to address musculoskeletal complaints, enhance patient outcomes, and reduce reliance on pharmacological interventions.

  2. Collaborative Approach: Osteopathic physicians collaborate with other healthcare professionals, including physical therapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists, to provide comprehensive patient care.

  3. Research and Evidence: OMM is supported by a growing body of scientific research, demonstrating its effectiveness in various conditions. Osteopathic physicians are encouraged to stay updated with the latest evidence and research in the field of OMM.


Medical Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) is an integral component of osteopathic medical practice, focusing on the diagnosis and treatment of somatic dysfunction. USMLE candidates should have a solid understanding of OMM principles, somatic dysfunction diagnosis, OMT techniques, and its integration into medical practice. Being familiar with the holistic approach and distinctive philosophy of osteopathic medicine will contribute to a comprehensive understanding of this topic for the USMLE examination.

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